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British Cycling policy advisor responds to criticism, saying it "obscures real issues"...

Chris Boardman’s appearance on BBC Breakfast this morning has provoked a flurry of complaints about his not wearing a cycle helmet – even though the segment began with him explaining why he chose not to do so. In a detailed explanation this afternoon, Boardman says that while the reaction was "understandable," it is also "unfortunate because it obscures what I believe are the real issues."

The early morning TV show is featuring a report on cycling each day this week. It is broadcast from Salford, close to the Manchester headquarters of British Cycling, where former Olympic champion Boardman is policy advisor.

Prior to going on a bike ride with him, presenter Louise Minchin asked Boardman, “Viewers will notice I will be wearing a helmet but you won’t. Why not?”

He replied: “It’s a very long answer and more time than we’ve got here," before summarising his position briefly.

“It discourages people from riding a bike, you’re as safe riding a bike as you are walking, statistically, you’re much safer than you are going in your own bathroom and you don’t wear a helmet there," he explained.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with helmets, but it’s not in the top ten things that you can do to keep safe.

“We’re going to look at all of those things, but for me, I want bikes to be for normal people in normal clothes.

“About 0.5 per cent of people wear one in the Netherlands, yet it’s the safest country in the world,” he added.

“There’s a reason for that.”

Despite his explanation, the backlash on social media was predictable, many pointing out that the Netherlands already has the type of infrastructure that Boardman and others are campaigning for in the UK.

One Facebook user, John Stimpson, said: “Chris Boardman wearing no helmet and riding in black jacket and jeans. For an item on cycling safety you can't get more stupid.”

Another, Toni Smith, said: “How can you show a piece about cycling safety when the ex-champion is not wearing any safety gear? This is not acceptable! Please in the future choose an ambassador who practices what they preach!”

Many others leapt to his defence, however, with Morgan Lewis saying: “For all those people expressing outrage, I wonder if you have spent the same amount of time looking at the evidence about helmets over the years as Chris Boardman has. His view is not idly held. There is a lot of knee-jerking in these comments.”

Jonathan Richards pointed out: “About two thirds of fatalities WITHIN cars are caused by head injuries - why not a call for compulsory helmets for those travelling in cars? And as for pedestrians ....”

Meanwhile, Chris Myrie couldn’t resist asking: “Does this mean his £80 endorsed helmets from Halfords are useless?”

There was a similar division in reaction to his comments on Twitter, where Boardman himself tweeted this morning after the show: “Hi All, rather than try to address the helmet debate (again) I'm going to pen something for people to read and point you to it this PM.”

That response has now been published on the British Cycling website. Boardman acknowledged the BBC Breakfast piece had “got a lot of people fired up,” and that “my riding a bicycle in normal clothing, looking like a normal person was greeted by some with cries of horror. It’s both understandable and unfortunate because it obscures what I believe are the real issues.”

Foremost among those issues is why some cyclists in the UK believe they should have to wear a helmet while cycling in the first place, he said.

“People wear helmets and high vis as they feel it’s all they can do to keep themselves safe. It shows just how far away Britain is from embracing cycling as a normal and convenient form of transport,” he added.

Pointing to the example of Utrecht in the Netherlands and providing a link to a video of people cycling there he went on: “I’m willing to bet that even those that swear by helmets and high vis would feel comfortable discarding their body armour in such an environment. And that’s the point; in Utrecht they have addressed the real dangers to cyclists.”

While he admitted that the situation in the UK is vastly different, he said helmet compulsion was not the answer, citing drops of between 30 and 50 per cent in countries such as Australia and New Zealand that had introduced such legislation.

“If cycling looks and feels normal, more people will cycle,” he said. The more people cycle, the safer they are - the safety in numbers effect. The more people cycle, the more lives will be saved from amongst the 37,000 that die each year from obesity-related illnesses. Never mind the more than 27,000 that die annually from pollution-related illnesses.”

Boardman said he understands “exactly why people feel so passionately about helmets or high vis,” and “why people wish to use them,” but said he would not promote helmets or hi-vis nor be drawn into a debate on a topic that he considers “isn’t even in the top 10 things that will really keep people who want to cycle safe.”

He added: “I want cycling in the UK to be like it is in Utrecht or Copenhagen and more recently New York City – an everyday thing that people can do in everyday clothes whether you are eight or 80 years old. I want cycling to be a normal thing that normal people do in normal clothes. Is that wrong?”

In the BBC Breakfast report itself, Boardman outlined his top tips for cycling safely including planning your route, how to negotiate junctions and roundabouts safely, road position, stopping at red lights and giving large vehicles plenty of space and not going up the left-hand side of them.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

285 comments

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kamoshika [216 posts] 2 years ago
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RTB wrote:

Why would you possibly say "helmets are bad for UTILITY cycling". How could they be bad (other than some tenuous argument that they put people off cycling)?

Because they unnecessarily reinforce the view that cycling is a dangerous activity, and that puts people off cycling. It's not tenuous.

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RTB [179 posts] 2 years ago
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felixcat wrote:
RTB wrote:

Why would you possibly say "helmets are bad for UTILITY cycling". How could they be bad (other than some tenuous argument that they put people off cycling)?

Not tenuous at all. Helmet laws have been followed by a reduction in cycling everywhere they have been enacted.
Laws have a date of enactment so it is easier to show the effect on cycling when compared with helmet promotion, but there is evidence that promotion affects cycling rates.
Do you remember BeHIT's poster for schools, showing a skull in a helmet?

Yeah but (other than cycling rates) how are they "bad" and why are the UCI rules on helmets "crap"?

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kamoshika [216 posts] 2 years ago
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RTB wrote:

Yeah but (other than cycling rates) how are they "bad"...?

Isn't the point of promoting cycling to increase rates of cycling? Isn't it enough that they're bad for cycling rates?!

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felixcat [486 posts] 2 years ago
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RTB wrote:

Yeah but (other than cycling rates) how are they "bad" and why are the UCI rules on helmets "crap"?

I took "bad for utility cycling" to mean "diminish the amount of utility cycling". I thought this was pretty clear from what I and others wrote. What is your quibble here?

You are (understandably) confused about the UCI. It was not I who mentioned them.

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mrmo [2092 posts] 2 years ago
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RTB wrote:

Yeah but (other than cycling rates) how are they "bad" and why are the UCI rules on helmets "crap"?

Project a image that cycling is dangerous when it is not, are we arguing drivers should wear helmets where strong evidence exists to suggest there would be a benefit. Put the onus on the victim that they are to blame in the event of a crash. Give drivers less reason to overtake properly. Increase the differentiation between "us" and "them"

UCI rules are based on helmet standards that are inadequate, a drop test from 1-2m does not equate to the real world by any stretch of the imagination. The UCI are playing politics and giving lip service rather than trying to improve safety.

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RTB [179 posts] 2 years ago
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graham_f wrote:
RTB wrote:
graham_f wrote:

Out of interest, which bit would you dispute - that telling people that they should wear a helmet reinforces the view that cycling is dangerous, or that holding the view that cycling is dangerous makes people less likely to cycle?

Neither of these paradigms is my point or concern. I have a libertarian perspective: free speech; free choice. There is no law or planned law (that I know of) to compulsorise the use of cycling helmets nor would I push for one - in fact I am very ambivalent about this part of the debate.

But you were disputing the promotion of helmet wearing having a detrimental effect on the promotion of cycling:

RTB wrote:
graham_f wrote:

But the two are inextricably linked! The promotion (or worse, the mandating) of helmets for cycling reinforces the view that cycling is a dangerous activity, which in turn can and does discourage people from cycling, working against the promotion of cycling.

No Graham they are not "inextricably linked" they are tenuously (loosely) linked at the most.

So many posters on here seem to be peddling the argument, like Boardman, 'don't force people to wear cycling helmets lest you will disincentivise them from taking up cycling'. It is so lame it is naff.

My argument is that by promoting helmet use you put people off cycling. That is based on the two premises above - that promoting helmet use reinforces the view that cycling is dangerous, and that thinking cycling is dangerous puts people off doing it. If you disagree with my argument, that suggests that you disagree with one or both of those premises, or the link between them. I'm curious to know which it is.

"promotion of helmet wearing having a detrimental effect on the promotion of cycling"

Yes I do dispute that; it is a preposterous proposition that people might choose not to cycle because they might feel pressured into having to wear a helmet (which btw they don't). Either people want to cycle or not and if the suggestion that the only (or major) thing preventing them doing it is having to wear a helmet (or to spend 20, 30 etc quid on one) was the showstopper then I would suggest they were never that serious or motivated in the first place about wanting to cycle.

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mrmo [2092 posts] 2 years ago
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RTB wrote:

Yes I do dispute that; it is a preposterous proposition that people might choose not to cycle because they might feel pressured into having to wear a helmet (which btw they don't). Either people want to cycle or not and if the suggestion that the only (or major) thing preventing them doing it is having to wear a helmet (or to spend 20, 30 etc quid on one) was the showstopper then I would suggest they were never that serious or motivated in the first place about wanting to cycle.

Look at the evidence from NZ, Australia, et al.

Compulsory helmets mean less cycling.

If your racing, helmets are not an issue, if your utility cycling then they are.

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kamoshika [216 posts] 2 years ago
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RTB wrote:

Yes I do dispute that; it is a preposterous proposition that people might choose not to cycle because they might feel pressured into having to wear a helmet (which btw they don't). Either people want to cycle or not and if the suggestion that the only (or major) thing preventing them doing it is having to wear a helmet (or to spend 20, 30 etc quid on one) was the showstopper then I would suggest they were never that serious or motivated in the first place about wanting to cycle.

You're (I suspect deliberately) missing the point of what I'm writing, but hey-ho, I'll try again. Being told that you should wear a helmet to take part in an activity reinforces the view that that activity is dangerous. In the case of utility cycling the statistics don't back that up, and the level of risk isn't significantly different from other everyday activities like walking and driving. I'm not suggesting people are put of cycling by having to wear a helmet (although some may be) or having to spend £20-30 on one. I'm suggesting that being told they should wear a helmet makes them think it's dangerous, and the perceived danger puts them off doing it.

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felixcat [486 posts] 2 years ago
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RTB wrote:

Yes I do dispute that; it is a preposterous proposition that people might choose not to cycle because they might feel pressured into having to wear a helmet (which btw they don't). Either people want to cycle or not and if the suggestion that the only (or major) thing preventing them doing it is having to wear a helmet (or to spend 20, 30 etc quid on one) was the showstopper then I would suggest they were never that serious or motivated in the first place about wanting to cycle.

I don't think anyone has said that people are not choosing to cycle because they might feel pressured ... This is what is called a straw man.
What people are saying is that helmet promotion necessarily depends on convincing prospective cyclists that cycling is so much more dangerous than other methods of getting to work, the shops or to school, that they need to wear a special helmet.

This helmet is jeered at by many and some women don't want their hair do flattened. It is a mark of difference in our society and a pain in the bum when off the bike.

Some prospective cyclists may be unsure (not that serious as you put it) and wavering. We need to get them on their bikes too.

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RTB [179 posts] 2 years ago
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graham_f wrote:
RTB wrote:

Yeah but (other than cycling rates) how are they "bad"...?

Isn't the point of promoting cycling to increase rates of cycling? Isn't it enough that they're bad for cycling rates?!

I don't accept the premise of the argument and I have not seen a single killer point from anyone that lands it, not even close. Either people want to cycle or they don't and the suggestion that a major obstacle is the perceived peer pressure to wear a helmet is poorly conceived; it's a specious argument. There are far more fundamental reasons than that and if anyone offers it up it's an excuse not a reason.

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RTB [179 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
felixcat wrote:
RTB wrote:

Yeah but (other than cycling rates) how are they "bad" and why are the UCI rules on helmets "crap"?

I took "bad for utility cycling" to mean "diminish the amount of utility cycling". I thought this was pretty clear from what I and others wrote. What is your quibble here?

You are (understandably) confused about the UCI. It was not I who mentioned them.

"You are (understandably) confused"

Come on Felix that's condescending and unwarranted.

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RTB [179 posts] 2 years ago
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mrmo wrote:
RTB wrote:

Yes I do dispute that; it is a preposterous proposition that people might choose not to cycle because they might feel pressured into having to wear a helmet (which btw they don't). Either people want to cycle or not and if the suggestion that the only (or major) thing preventing them doing it is having to wear a helmet (or to spend 20, 30 etc quid on one) was the showstopper then I would suggest they were never that serious or motivated in the first place about wanting to cycle.

Look at the evidence from NZ, Australia, et al.

Compulsory helmets mean less cycling.

If your racing, helmets are not an issue, if your utility cycling then they are.

Really, was that the conclusion? The only factor? I doubt it very much. Like I said elsewhere helmets are an excuse in the whole piece not a reason.

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mrmo [2092 posts] 2 years ago
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RTB wrote:

Really, was that the conclusion? The only factor? I doubt it very much. Like I said elsewhere helmets are an excuse in the whole piece not a reason.

Law passed, helmet use mandated, cycling levels fall, injury levels per cyclist per km remain constant.

i.e. less cyclists and no benefit to the cyclists left.

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oozaveared [934 posts] 2 years ago
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RTB wrote:
oozaveared wrote:
RTB wrote:
graham_f wrote:
RTB wrote:

A better comparison for cycling, seeing as you want to peddle that line, is skiing. Speeds are similar (non-propelled common mass (weight) object acting under the forces of gravity) and even though the incidents of crashes, actually and statistically, are higher for skiing than cycling the impacts of head traumas are not dissimilar. Very few, if any, of the posts, have referenced medical expert data for head trauma.

It is inconceivable for me to cycle without a helmet and most of the races/events or groups I cycle with will not allow riders to participate without using helmets.

I wish I had applied the same criteria to my skiing when several years ago I hit an ice block in poor light and endured a high speed crash (flipped in the air) without a helmet bouncing my skull heavily on the downslope. I was lucky that I escaped with only mild concussion but it hurt like **** with headaches for weeks. The two medics that I saw in the aftermath left me in little doubt that I had acted negligently by not wearing a suitable helmet. They should know, they see the outcomes every day.

You say yourself that the likelihood of crashing while skiing is higher. Therefore the risk of a head injury is higher, so the use of the use of helmets is more justified. For the most part people who take part in skiing are doing it as a sporting activity, so a fairer comparison would be with sport cycling, as opposed to utility cycling which is the main focus of what CB is talking about. There will always be exceptions (as there are with skiers) but I'd say the majority of people cycling as a sport use a helmet regularly. A better comparison for utility cycling might be cross country skiing. How many people do you see cross country skiing with a helmet on? Very few, because the risks are much smaller. Yes - there is a chance that you could fall and hit your head while cross country skiing, just as there is a chance (as has been pointed out several times above) that you could sustain a head injury walking along the street, climbing the stairs, driving a car. If you go down the road of any risk of head injury, however small, being justification for wearing a helmet, then we'd all put one on when we got out of bed in the morning and not take it off until we go to bed at night.

Good point on the analogy with nordic/alpine skiing but where it breaks down is that most nordic skiers I have seen are highly competent (skilled) and I do not see anywhere near the same level of competence with occasional cyclists, quite a few of whom look decidedly unstable and not in total control of their bikes.

and it further breaks down because Ski helmets are very substantially more protective than cycle helmets. they are designed and constructed differently and they work differently.

Of course if you want to wear a ski helmet or a motorcycle helmet tell me how that works for you cycling. I suspect the enthusiasm would soon wear off. But you don't mind wearing a cycle helmet because it's light and comfortable almost designed as if lightness and comfort were the main criteria and not protection.....oh wait a minute.

Then of course there's the fact that you were high speed skiing in the dark. So again we have this idea that cycling is an extreme sport practiced by very fit people travelling quite fast. Further missing the whole point of what Chris Boardman is saying ie that if cycling were like it was in NL then it would be a heck of a lot of people travelling quite sedately as a form of completely benign transport. Why don't you mention the fact that whole hoards of people from young to old go skiing and are quite content to ski nicely down a slope without pushing the limits. You know just travelling along nicely.

But every time we have to come back to people that want to push the sporting line that because they ride fast or ski difficult slopes in the dark that Mrs Jones popping to the shop for some chops for dinner has to be kitted out like she's on an adventure.

Some of you guys aren't getting this are you?

Oh dear oozaveared did I touch a nerve when I degaussed your physics lesson? It was you afterall who went into that space not me and it did cry out to be addressed given how incorrect it was.

Sorry to hijack your monicker (Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand) 'Physics' is like a church - many attend, but few understand... Btw FWIW I don't understand physics properly either but it is nice to go back to church once in a while  1

I think you're just suffering from analysis paralysis. The desire to overly complicate matters so as to avoid reaching a conclusion. You can always add complaxity but it very rarely changes the actualite. Same here. Whatever way you add complexity to the anlysis you will always have to conclude that cycle helmets aren't much use. You can demonstrate quite easily as I did that the forces involved in collisions vastly out match the force protection offered by the helmet. But you can keep adding layers of different types of and angles of and directions of force and make it direct and indirect. and it doesn't change the basic fact that they aren't very useful.

Analysis Paralysis
The phrase describes a situation where the opportunity cost of decision analysis exceeds the benefits that could be gained by enacting some decision, or an informal or non-deterministic situation where the sheer quantity of analysis overwhelms the decision-making process itself, thus preventing a decision. The phrase applies to any situation where analysis may be applied to help make a decision but in which the volume of data and analysis creates a dysfunction in the ability to make a decision.

Avatar
RTB [179 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
graham_f wrote:
RTB wrote:

Yes I do dispute that; it is a preposterous proposition that people might choose not to cycle because they might feel pressured into having to wear a helmet (which btw they don't). Either people want to cycle or not and if the suggestion that the only (or major) thing preventing them doing it is having to wear a helmet (or to spend 20, 30 etc quid on one) was the showstopper then I would suggest they were never that serious or motivated in the first place about wanting to cycle.

You're (I suspect deliberately) missing the point of what I'm writing, but hey-ho, I'll try again. Being told that you should wear a helmet to take part in an activity reinforces the view that that activity is dangerous. In the case of utility cycling the statistics don't back that up, and the level of risk isn't significantly different from other everyday activities like walking and driving. I'm not suggesting people are put of cycling by having to wear a helmet (although some may be) or having to spend £20-30 on one. I'm suggesting that being told they should wear a helmet makes them think it's dangerous, and the perceived danger puts them off doing it.

"I'm suggesting that being told they should wear a helmet makes them think it's dangerous, and the perceived danger puts them off doing it"

I don't buy that at all and more to the point I have seen nothing empirical to support it. It is all about perception and it is in the eye of the beholder what constitutes danger and at what threshold.

Helmet use in cycling is increasing and will contiue to do so whether legislated or not. The amount of cyclists on the roads, road and MTB, is increasing and most of those (high 90 percentile - anyone disagree?) will be wearing helmets so it is there in full glare every day for people to see for themselves and make their own conclusions and perceptions as to whether cycling is dangerous or not or more pertinently whether it is for them or not. This is why I say this whole debate around helmets is a moot point in your context.

Helmet use in cycling is a forward gear only juggernaut. You cannot stop it or put it in reverse. The genie is out of the bottle and the most disappointing thing about this recent action by Boardman, who I utterly adore in every other facet, is that he is stooping to grandstanding and stunts which just undermines his substance.

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felixcat [486 posts] 2 years ago
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RTB wrote:

"You are (understandably) confused"

Come on Felix that's condescending and unwarranted.

I assure you it was not meant to be. What I was referring to was the number of different conversations with different people you are engaged on. I was in fact trying to soften what I said. Don't be so touchy.

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kamoshika [216 posts] 2 years ago
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RTB wrote:

Either people want to cycle or they don't and the suggestion that a major obstacle is the perceived peer pressure to wear a helmet is poorly conceived; it's a specious argument.

Or, they want to cycle but are put off by being lead to believe it's more dangerous than it actually is. I believe that's the conclusion surveys that have been done point to. I not sure anyone's mentioned the obstacle being perceived peer pressure. The obstacle is perceived danger.

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kamoshika [216 posts] 2 years ago
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RTB wrote:

"I'm suggesting that being told they should wear a helmet makes them think it's dangerous, and the perceived danger puts them off doing it"

I don't buy that at all and more to the point I have seen nothing empirical to support it. It is all about perception and it is in the eye of the beholder what constitutes danger and at what threshold.

OK, which bit don't you buy - that being told they should wear a helmet makes people think cycling's dangerous, or that thinking it's dangerous puts them off cycling?

Avatar
RTB [179 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
mrmo wrote:
RTB wrote:

Really, was that the conclusion? The only factor? I doubt it very much. Like I said elsewhere helmets are an excuse in the whole piece not a reason.

Law passed, helmet use mandated, cycling levels fall, injury levels per cyclist per km remain constant.

i.e. less cyclists and no benefit to the cyclists left.

Really? So all those cycles of people who now had to use a helmet are currently rusting away in sheds and garages (assuming none of them would be on anything carbon) and the people are now doing what?

Just not credible at all and you also have to ask in those countries (to reiterate I am ambivalent about helmet wearing being compulsory) why it was introduced as law.

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Aapje [242 posts] 2 years ago
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RTB wrote:

I don't accept the premise of the argument and I have not seen a single killer point from anyone that lands it, not even close. Either people want to cycle or they don't and the suggestion that a major obstacle is the perceived peer pressure to wear a helmet is poorly conceived; it's a specious argument. There are far more fundamental reasons than that and if anyone offers it up it's an excuse not a reason.

You are missing the point completely. This isn't about the people who want to cycle and those who don't, it's about the people who want to and do and those who want to and don't. For this latter group, safety and convenience are major obstacles. Both are strongly influenced by the helmet debate, as it:
- Makes cycling look much more unsafe than it is
- Makes the media, politicians and ordinary citizens ignore actual pro-cycling measures (which increase both safety and convenience) to instead bash cyclists for not making themselves safe (even though helmets do not achieve this)
- Makes utility cycling very inconvenient when you have to carry around a helmet, get your hairdo ruined, etc.
- Gives cycling an uncool image, which pushes people who care about their looks/image towards cars.

Fact is that countries that focus on helmets fail. Those who don't care about that and focus on good infrastructure succeed. If you want to argue the benefit of helmets, you basically have to argue that the big advantage of helmets was completely negated by other factors in those countries, which immediatly undermines the point that helmets are important. After all, then those other factors are much more important for safety and cycling rates.

RTB wrote:

"You are (understandably) confused"

Come on Felix that's condescending and unwarranted.

I think he was agreeing with you, in that he did not see how the UCI is a major factor when it comes to helmet use in utility cycling. I didn't read it as condescension.

Avatar
RTB [179 posts] 2 years ago
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oozaveared wrote:
RTB wrote:
oozaveared wrote:
RTB wrote:
graham_f wrote:
RTB wrote:

A better comparison for cycling, seeing as you want to peddle that line, is skiing. Speeds are similar (non-propelled common mass (weight) object acting under the forces of gravity) and even though the incidents of crashes, actually and statistically, are higher for skiing than cycling the impacts of head traumas are not dissimilar. Very few, if any, of the posts, have referenced medical expert data for head trauma.

It is inconceivable for me to cycle without a helmet and most of the races/events or groups I cycle with will not allow riders to participate without using helmets.

I wish I had applied the same criteria to my skiing when several years ago I hit an ice block in poor light and endured a high speed crash (flipped in the air) without a helmet bouncing my skull heavily on the downslope. I was lucky that I escaped with only mild concussion but it hurt like **** with headaches for weeks. The two medics that I saw in the aftermath left me in little doubt that I had acted negligently by not wearing a suitable helmet. They should know, they see the outcomes every day.

You say yourself that the likelihood of crashing while skiing is higher. Therefore the risk of a head injury is higher, so the use of the use of helmets is more justified. For the most part people who take part in skiing are doing it as a sporting activity, so a fairer comparison would be with sport cycling, as opposed to utility cycling which is the main focus of what CB is talking about. There will always be exceptions (as there are with skiers) but I'd say the majority of people cycling as a sport use a helmet regularly. A better comparison for utility cycling might be cross country skiing. How many people do you see cross country skiing with a helmet on? Very few, because the risks are much smaller. Yes - there is a chance that you could fall and hit your head while cross country skiing, just as there is a chance (as has been pointed out several times above) that you could sustain a head injury walking along the street, climbing the stairs, driving a car. If you go down the road of any risk of head injury, however small, being justification for wearing a helmet, then we'd all put one on when we got out of bed in the morning and not take it off until we go to bed at night.

Good point on the analogy with nordic/alpine skiing but where it breaks down is that most nordic skiers I have seen are highly competent (skilled) and I do not see anywhere near the same level of competence with occasional cyclists, quite a few of whom look decidedly unstable and not in total control of their bikes.

and it further breaks down because Ski helmets are very substantially more protective than cycle helmets. they are designed and constructed differently and they work differently.

Of course if you want to wear a ski helmet or a motorcycle helmet tell me how that works for you cycling. I suspect the enthusiasm would soon wear off. But you don't mind wearing a cycle helmet because it's light and comfortable almost designed as if lightness and comfort were the main criteria and not protection.....oh wait a minute.

Then of course there's the fact that you were high speed skiing in the dark. So again we have this idea that cycling is an extreme sport practiced by very fit people travelling quite fast. Further missing the whole point of what Chris Boardman is saying ie that if cycling were like it was in NL then it would be a heck of a lot of people travelling quite sedately as a form of completely benign transport. Why don't you mention the fact that whole hoards of people from young to old go skiing and are quite content to ski nicely down a slope without pushing the limits. You know just travelling along nicely.

But every time we have to come back to people that want to push the sporting line that because they ride fast or ski difficult slopes in the dark that Mrs Jones popping to the shop for some chops for dinner has to be kitted out like she's on an adventure.

Some of you guys aren't getting this are you?

Oh dear oozaveared did I touch a nerve when I degaussed your physics lesson? It was you afterall who went into that space not me and it did cry out to be addressed given how incorrect it was.

Sorry to hijack your monicker (Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand) 'Physics' is like a church - many attend, but few understand... Btw FWIW I don't understand physics properly either but it is nice to go back to church once in a while  1

I think you're just suffering from analysis paralysis. The desire to overly complicate matters so as to avoid reaching a conclusion. You can always add complaxity but it very rarely changes the actualite. Same here. Whatever way you add complexity to the anlysis you will always have to conclude that cycle helmets aren't much use. You can demonstrate quite easily as I did that the forces involved in collisions vastly out match the force protection offered by the helmet. But you can keep adding layers of different types of and angles of and directions of force and make it direct and indirect. and it doesn't change the basic fact that they aren't very useful.

Analysis Paralysis
The phrase describes a situation where the opportunity cost of decision analysis exceeds the benefits that could be gained by enacting some decision, or an informal or non-deterministic situation where the sheer quantity of analysis overwhelms the decision-making process itself, thus preventing a decision. The phrase applies to any situation where analysis may be applied to help make a decision but in which the volume of data and analysis creates a dysfunction in the ability to make a decision.

"and it doesn't change the basic fact that they (helmets) aren't very useful"

Ergo but more useful than 'no helmet' and isn't this the basic point?

And please don't drag it down on that specious and tenuous argument that more people will die from obesity related diseases by not getting on a bike (which is true) because they were put off by the perception of having to wear a helmet (which is false/unproven). It is a fallacy.

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Aapje [242 posts] 2 years ago
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RTB wrote:
mrmo wrote:
RTB wrote:

Really, was that the conclusion? The only factor? I doubt it very much. Like I said elsewhere helmets are an excuse in the whole piece not a reason.

Law passed, helmet use mandated, cycling levels fall, injury levels per cyclist per km remain constant.

i.e. less cyclists and no benefit to the cyclists left.

Really? So all those cycles of people who now had to use a helmet are currently rusting away in sheds and garages (assuming none of them would be on anything carbon) and the people are now doing what?

Just not credible at all and you also have to ask in those countries (to reiterate I am ambivalent about helmet wearing being compulsory) why it was introduced as law.

But it was measured by respected scientists who concluded that it actually happened. So when you say that it is 'Just not credible,' we are getting at the point where your beliefs are not consistent with scientifically established fact.

That is the point where you either change your mind or decide that the things that 'feel right' are more important than the actual truth. Your call.

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RTB [179 posts] 2 years ago
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felixcat wrote:
RTB wrote:

"You are (understandably) confused"

Come on Felix that's condescending and unwarranted.

I assure you it was not meant to be. What I was referring to was the number of different conversations with different people you are engaged on. I was in fact trying to soften what I said. Don't be so touchy.

Fair enough makes sense now. Btw I'm not the touchy type (ex rugger-bugger so all my touchy-feely stuff got pulverised long ago)

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RTB [179 posts] 2 years ago
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graham_f wrote:
RTB wrote:

Either people want to cycle or they don't and the suggestion that a major obstacle is the perceived peer pressure to wear a helmet is poorly conceived; it's a specious argument.

Or, they want to cycle but are put off by being lead to believe it's more dangerous than it actually is. I believe that's the conclusion surveys that have been done point to. I not sure anyone's mentioned the obstacle being perceived peer pressure. The obstacle is perceived danger.

Like I said in another post "danger" is a mostly a personal perception/threshold and people will make their own judgements and conclusions on that for themselves. You cannot control that one nor why would you want to.

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Joeinpoole [441 posts] 2 years ago
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RTB wrote:

Helmet use in cycling is increasing and will contiue to do so whether legislated or not. The amount of cyclists on the roads, road and MTB, is increasing and most of those (high 90 percentile - anyone disagree?) will be wearing helmets so it is there in full glare every day for people to see for themselves and make their own conclusions and perceptions as to whether cycling is dangerous or not or more pertinently whether it is for them or not. This is why I say this whole debate around helmets is a moot point in your context.

Helmet use in cycling is a forward gear only juggernaut. You cannot stop it or put it in reverse. The genie is out of the bottle and the most disappointing thing about this recent action by Boardman, who I utterly adore in every other facet, is that he is stooping to grandstanding and stunts which just undermines his substance.

No, you're wrong. The lead in utility cycling is provided by The Netherlands, where helmet use is virtually unknown and yet also has by far the best cycling safety record.

*That's* what Boardman is trying to demonstrate ... but obviously it went straight over your helmeted head.

Cycling without a helmet is not a "stunt". It's a perfectly safe and normal thing to do. I've been cycling for 50 years and it has never even occurred to me to wear a helmet.

Tonight I'll be walking to the pub to have a few drinks and then walking back home. Statistically that's a far more dangerous activity than cycling whilst sober. I'm going to take a chance though and NOT wear a helmet.

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Aapje [242 posts] 2 years ago
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RTB wrote:

"and it doesn't change the basic fact that they (helmets) aren't very useful"

Ergo but more useful than 'no helmet' and isn't this the basic point?

That is still unproven and you may actually have a greater chance of injury even if the helmet makes you marginally safer when you get into an accident. For instance, if cars make closer passes, your chance to get an accident increases. If you ride more dangerously due to the feeling of safety that the helmet provides, you will get more accidents and more serious ones.

Both of these downsides can easily overwhelm the advantages of wearing a helmet. The fact that no solid scientific proof can be found in real life that helmet use makes people safer, shows that the net effect is so minimal that it cannot be proven either way.

But clearly you are wedded to the idea that helmets must work. Probably due to the classic human tendency to want to control our faith. When confronted by a risk, people want to feel that they are in control, which explains the prevalence of superstitious behavior which allows people to feel that can control what happens. Cyclists have only limited control over whether they get into an accident or not and helmets allow people to delude themselves into thinking they substantially improve their survival chance in those situations. It's pretty much the same as wearing a lucky charm, although it seems much less irrational because it is common sense that a helmet ought to work. Unfortunately reality doesn't always do what it ought to do and common sense is regularly wrong.

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RTB [179 posts] 2 years ago
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Aapje wrote:
RTB wrote:

I don't accept the premise of the argument and I have not seen a single killer point from anyone that lands it, not even close. Either people want to cycle or they don't and the suggestion that a major obstacle is the perceived peer pressure to wear a helmet is poorly conceived; it's a specious argument. There are far more fundamental reasons than that and if anyone offers it up it's an excuse not a reason.

You are missing the point completely. This isn't about the people who want to cycle and those who don't, it's about the people who want to and do and those who want to and don't. For this latter group, safety and convenience are major obstacles. Both are strongly influenced by the helmet debate, as it:
- Makes cycling look much more unsafe than it is
- Makes the media, politicians and ordinary citizens ignore actual pro-cycling measures (which increase both safety and convenience) to instead bash cyclists for not making themselves safe (even though helmets do not achieve this)
- Makes utility cycling very inconvenient when you have to carry around a helmet, get your hairdo ruined, etc.
- Gives cycling an uncool image, which pushes people who care about their looks/image towards cars.

Fact is that countries that focus on helmets fail. Those who don't care about that and focus on good infrastructure succeed. If you want to argue the benefit of helmets, you basically have to argue that the big advantage of helmets was completely negated by other factors in those countries, which immediatly undermines the point that helmets are important. After all, then those other factors are much more important for safety and cycling rates.

RTB wrote:

"You are (understandably) confused"

Come on Felix that's condescending and unwarranted.

I think he was agreeing with you, in that he did not see how the UCI is a major factor when it comes to helmet use in utility cycling. I didn't read it as condescension.

I get the point alright, it has been repeated enough times. I happen to disagree with premise and the claims, especially those around scientific based data being cherry picked and spun to support pre-desired outcomes. The supposition of the premise is not proven as you and others appear to claim.

The facts of the matter could not be clearer (and I think I can safely say we will agree on many):

1. Growing obesity related diseases are a ticking timebomb in terms of cost, suffering, lifespan, public health, load on services etc.
2. People need to eat less, especially processed foods and red meat (which btw are massive factors in so called greenhouse gas increases) and exercise more.
3. Cycling is one of many ways in which people can address the exercise part of the equation.
4. Promotion and growth of cycling is desirable. There are many ways to achieve this as there are many possible factors to inhibit it.
5. Infrastructure for and safety in cycling is equally if not more desirable.
6. Some degree of danger exists at all levels of cycling in which many contributory factors are involved.
7. Wearing a helmet for cycling will give you more protection than wearing no helmet.
8. Wearing a helmet for cycling does not give absolute protection.

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RTB [179 posts] 2 years ago
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Joeinpoole wrote:
RTB wrote:

Helmet use in cycling is increasing and will contiue to do so whether legislated or not. The amount of cyclists on the roads, road and MTB, is increasing and most of those (high 90 percentile - anyone disagree?) will be wearing helmets so it is there in full glare every day for people to see for themselves and make their own conclusions and perceptions as to whether cycling is dangerous or not or more pertinently whether it is for them or not. This is why I say this whole debate around helmets is a moot point in your context.

Helmet use in cycling is a forward gear only juggernaut. You cannot stop it or put it in reverse. The genie is out of the bottle and the most disappointing thing about this recent action by Boardman, who I utterly adore in every other facet, is that he is stooping to grandstanding and stunts which just undermines his substance.

No, you're wrong. The lead in utility cycling is provided by The Netherlands, where helmet use is virtually unknown and yet also has by far the best cycling safety record.

*That's* what Boardman is trying to demonstrate ... but obviously it went straight over your helmeted head.

Cycling without a helmet is not a "stunt". It's a perfectly safe and normal thing to do. I've been cycling for 50 years and it has never even occurred to me to wear a helmet.

Tonight I'll be walking to the pub to have a few drinks and then walking back home. Statistically that's a far more dangerous activity than cycling whilst sober. I'm going to take a chance though and NOT wear a helmet.

Answer me this then. Why do you almost never see children (including Boardman's children) cycling without a helmet?

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felixcat [486 posts] 2 years ago
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RTB wrote:

Answer me this then. Why do you almost never see children (including Boardman's children) cycling without a helmet?

I think you know the answer to this really. It is because of the continual barrage of propaganda convincing people that cycling is so dangerous that their children will die if they cycle without a helmet. You have been engaged in denying that there is any propaganda so you don't want to admit this.
I was a mature cyclist when the first plastic hats appeared from the U.S. In those days we all learned to ride with very few problems on roads that we are told were much more dangerous than todays. We had no idea that we needed a helmet. Nowadays we have been convinced that the roads are too dangerous and a helmet will make them safe!

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mrmo [2092 posts] 2 years ago
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RTB wrote:

Answer me this then. Why do you almost never see children (including Boardman's children) cycling without a helmet?

And the nature of children accidents and their height mean they are probably the only group where helmets are more useful than not.

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